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Old 05-06-2011, 07:55 AM
MorningTwilight MorningTwilight is offline
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Default Emotions vs. Rationality

So here's a poser for you, that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

Background: my wife is monogamous, and I have had poly feelings for a very long time, and finally figured out that just admitting that I'm polyamorous (and telling my wife about it) relieved a hell of a lot of stress.

Anyway, there's a wealth of writing out there that advises about how to help your mono partner feel secure, and how to help your mono partner deconstruct and handle jealousy. The advice generally boils down to using reason to conquer fear (e.g., "No, he's not actually going to leave me for her."). In a sense, you help your partner tell herself not to be jealous.

What would you as a poly say to a mono who responds, "Well then, why don't you just tell yourself not to fall in love with anyone else?"

(This has not actually happened in my case, but I can see how it could, and I don't doubt that it has happened with many couples who were exploring opening their marriages.)
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Old 05-06-2011, 01:19 PM
GroundedSpirit GroundedSpirit is offline
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Originally Posted by MorningTwilight View Post
So here's a poser for you, that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

...................

What would you as a poly say to a mono who responds, "Well then, why don't you just tell yourself not to fall in love with anyone else?"
Good morning Twilight

I hope when/if this happens you can convince her/anyone that while you appreciate the sentiment, it's not a valid question in it's current construct.
An apples to oranges situation if you will.

Dealing with jealousy and social programming (what actions does 'love' entail or not) is quite a different animal than discussing the connections we encounter/form with other living things - including humans.

The monogamous model specifies (in most cases) that if you 'love' me then all of your emotional and physical resources will be solely dedicate to my needs/demands. At minimum I'll convey to you some ultimate authority as to what and when exceptions to this will be allowed. In short, I relinquish my personal power over my own life to someone else.

And of course, many people come to some point that they suddenly start to analyze that construct, question both the validity and viability of it, and put it on the table for discussion and modification.

So the alternate question becomes..............

Why ? (should I)

"Why should I shut off positive emotions and actions between myself and another person ?" Something that is a natural part of being alive.
From there the discussion leans toward not 'if' but 'how'. How do we balance this so it brings the greatest benefit to all ?

There's a huge difference between 'shutting off jealousy' (a negative, fear driven emotion ingrained in us but bolstered by a cultural model that's oriented towards CONTROL) and shutting off ourselves from ties to others.
It's not 'love' that people are truly fearful of, it's time, attention, money etc that are all seemingly put at risk. That is where the competitive/control factor comes in. Standard competition for resources - same problem that keeps the world in turmoil in general. Owning/controlling vs sharing.

So my 'personal' response to such a query would be " because I don't choose to- because I believe the negativity of that choice would outweigh the positive".

Dealing with jealousy, fear etc does not involve 'shutting off' anything. It involves educating ourselves on some biology, sociology, psychology etc. It's about expansion - not contraction - of our potential.

My thoughts at least.........

GS
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Old 05-08-2011, 07:48 AM
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Personally, I've always had trouble with jealousy being characterized as a "false" emotion. It's really just fear, right? Fear of losing someone important, fear of being alone, fear of being personally inadequate. It's human nature to respond to fear by fighting or by hiding, which is precisely what most people do when they're jealous.

And really, there are few emotions more primeval and instinctive than fear, right?

So, I often see monogamy characterized this way (no offense, GS, just this is a pretty decent representation of how poly people often see monogamy):

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Originally Posted by GroundedSpirit View Post
The monogamous model specifies (in most cases) that if you 'love' me then all of your emotional and physical resources will be solely dedicate to my needs/demands. At minimum I'll convey to you some ultimate authority as to what and when exceptions to this will be allowed. In short, I relinquish my personal power over my own life to someone else.
When Vino and I were monogamous, it wasn't like that at all. It was a quid pro quo. We love each other dearly, and we were both terrified of being alone, being abandoned, being unloved. We were both astoundingly huge nerds when we were younger and didn't get much attention from anyone, and we were raised with the very traditional belief that, if you didn't get married and settle down, you'd die alone, and your corpse would be picked apart by your fifteen housecats.

Emotional and sexual monogamy was what we offered each other in exchange for knowing we'd always have each other to love and rely on. We didn't hand over power to each other--we made a choice to control our own behavior, for our own benefit. Yes, we both passed up opportunities with people we were attracted to. In many cases, we actively removed ourselves from situations where our feelings or behaviors were becoming a risk to our relationship. And, we got over it. It took time and effort--but getting over anything takes time.

Love and desire can be controlled and suppressed, just like jealousy.

Both are instinctive responses. The human mind can identify, contextualize, and ultimately, respond rationally to either.

Vino gets jealous when I suggest being involved with men--intensely so. I've asked him to work through it, he's agreed, and we're taking our time with it (it helps that there aren't any men I'm really attracted to at the moment). But, at the same time, I control my feelings in any situation that would make him jealous--I deliberately remove myself from situations where I feel more than a passing attraction to a man develop, and I never, ever act on feelings toward men, at least for the time being. Quid pro quo, because I love him and don't want to hurt him or lose him.

I think controlling my feelings for now is only fair to him. After all, he's the one getting the short end of the stick here--what benefit does he get out of me banging other men?

Last edited by Ivy; 05-08-2011 at 07:51 AM.
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Old 05-08-2011, 12:07 PM
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nycindie nycindie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
Personally, I've always had trouble with jealousy being characterized as a "false" emotion. It's really just fear, right? Fear of losing someone important, fear of being alone, fear of being personally inadequate. It's human nature to respond to fear by fighting or by hiding, which is precisely what most people do when they're jealous.

And really, there are few emotions more primeval and instinctive than fear, right?
I never said it was false, just that it's produced by a mental process, rather than being a natural, organic response. I am very grateful for the people who taught me that we human beings often manufacture lots of feelings with our minds, or hold onto feelings that have arisen, rather than feel what comes up and let it go. Real feelings will always have an ebb and flow. The emotions that come out of our own mental masturbation stick around and can actually become some kind of comfort to us, no matter how uncomfortable or icky, simply because they're familiar. And we become very facile at reproducing them in similar situations or times when feeling that would be easier than feeling something else that is unfamiliar or more uncomfortable. So much so, that we say, "I know I will feel jealous about..." No - you don't actually know what you're going to feel in the future, if you really allow whatever is to be what it is, in any given moment. But you might very accurately be able to predict what you will feel in certain situations simply because it's like a subroutine, a tape, a broken record, that you play over and over and over.

Jealousy and fear and inadequacy are not the same things. Jealousy comes out of a mental process. You can teach yourself not to be jealous. Feeling inadequate is based on making comparisons. It's not something that gives rise in and of itself. Real fear is a natural response within the bodymind. There's an adrenaline rush or other sensations accompanying it. One can try to teach yourself not to be afraid, but that's impossible. You can be fearful of less things, but there will always be a stimulus that will get you when you least expect it. It is a primitive instinctual emotion (emotion = energy in motion).

I say "real fear" because you can mentally work yourself up into feeling fear, just like you can with any emotion, but then it's not genuine in the moment of experience, but simply a reaction to your own thoughts. However, jealousy doesn't rise up of itself, it is something that is over top of other feelings. You can have sensations, like nausea and shortness of breath when you're jealous, but those come after you've reacted, not viscerally as the feeling comes up, as sensations do with fear.

Fear pops up and we don't want to feel it (we're afraid of our fears, even), so our mind starts working. And we twist it into jealousy. Jealousy is always a mental construct. There are cultures that do not experience jealousy, or shame, and other mentally induced emotions. But fear and love are natural and when these feelings happen, they just happen of their own accord.
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Old 05-08-2011, 03:40 PM
GroundedSpirit GroundedSpirit is offline
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Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
......
When Vino and I were monogamous, it wasn't like that at all. It was a quid pro quo.
.............
Emotional and sexual monogamy was what we offered each other in exchange for knowing we'd always have each other to love and rely on. We didn't hand over power to each other--we made a choice to control our own behavior, for our own benefit.
I see what you are saying Ivy but I feel you are trying to whitewash the facts. Don't take that personally, please. Not intended that way.
What you are saying is that you made an "agreement" (mutual) and that therefore that voids the power control clause.
But does it ?
In any "agreement" you have inserted the "IF" construct.
"IF" I do xxxxxx you agree to do (or not do) yyyyy. The implication here is that if I now fail to follow through - to in fact DO xxxxx - it's unwritten that you are entitled to now do/not do yyyyyyy. In a large majority of relationships this potential retribution is what starts things down the slippery slope. To say it is not a mechanism of power control really is stretching the truth. If you question that, I suggest you look around you more closely at any monogamous models you may have access to.
This all of course is subject to that 80/20 rule or whatever. COULD there be couples that could form the 'agreement' and allow it to expire on need with none of the power control/retribution drama ? Of course. There's an exception to every rule.

The alternative we explore is to not make that type of agreement in the first place. This removes that potential conflict from the equation to start with. It's one less potential wrench in the relationship spokes.
I don't "agree" to never love or have sex with anyone but you and don't expect you do differently. If in fact it turns out that one of us does by chance remain monogamous there's no foul. That person is happy, content and that's what the objective of the relationship is-right ?

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Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
Love and desire can be controlled and suppressed, just like jealousy.
Desire.....maybe. Love ? Highly questionable. And not without (sometimes) significant pain. And as so many will vouch for, trying to shut off something natural can inflict some serious physical and emotional damage. Depression, anger, physical illness etc. Depends on the individual's internal strength.



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I think controlling my feelings for now is only fair to him. After all, he's the one getting the short end of the stick here--what benefit does he get out of me banging other men?
Fair is good. Empathy. Caring. Love.
To a point. The point that it becomes heavily unbalanced. That the damage to one in the quest to protect the other is torpedoing the health of the relationship anyway.

Because it IS entirely possible for him to benefit from you "banging" other men/women/whatever. We see it all the time ! If it is important to you, pleasurable, you become a happier, more fulfilled person. You carry that 'wellness' with you all the time. It affects everyone you come in contact with. And it's often just about as common that your own passion and sex drive increases, which also carries over to him. Third, there's often a hard to describe feeling of bonding that occurs between you, largely generated from your side. Your realization of what he is "giving" you by supporting your freedom of choice only raises your respect for him and often love.

So it all depends on the individuals...............

GS
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:07 PM
MorningTwilight MorningTwilight is offline
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Lots of good conversation!

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Originally Posted by Ariakas View Post
I found out I can't turn love off. Even when I don't want to love the girl, I can't. It just happens.
This has been my experience as well, and suppressing it has been very difficult, and has at times made me miserable.

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Originally Posted by disappearingpoet View Post
It's okay if somebody feels jealous. It happens. Looking at why might be good though, if it's something that really bothers them. Letting someone examine their feelings (or me examining mine, which has definitely happened) while saying it's okay to have them usually has a pretty positive end result, without setting up an argument for "telling yourself not to feel ___."
That is a very productive way to think about it.

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Originally Posted by redpepper View Post
Wow, good question! Why shouldn't someone shut off love if another is expected to shut off jealousy?

Well, I guess first of all both are useful and complex emotions. I don't know if asking someone to shut off jealousy is a good idea. What is behind jealousy is useful and can be learned from.

(...Jealousy can be a useful indicator...)

(...mono/poly boundary is a ditch or a chasm...) If the two are okay talking/yelling across that now and then, or even what feels like always, then jealousy can be worked through and so can love.

(...Working through jealousy and setting boundaries has to be a shared effort...) If someone were to ask me why I can't shut off loving when they have made little to no attempt to work on their jealousy, I think I would seriously consider us done.
Yes. I'll be speaking more of that in my "initial conversation" thread. I think it fits better there. The nature/nurture thread also gives food for thought, but it depends upon whether or not one's partner is willing to think about it. I think that the fear of loss can be so strong that it shuts everything else out. I think the remarks that it's OK to feel jealousy are on the money, but as you say, one's partner has to also believe that it's OK for you to feel love. The devil lurking in the details, of course, is boundaries upon the expression of that love. If the answer is ever and always "None and never," then I think it's over between a mono and a poly, depending upon how strongly the poly feels love for others, or how much pain it causes the poly to repress that love.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
Personally, I've always had trouble with jealousy being characterized as a "false" emotion. It's really just fear, right? Fear of losing someone important, fear of being alone, fear of being personally inadequate. It's human nature to respond to fear by fighting or by hiding, which is precisely what most people do when they're jealous.

And really, there are few emotions more primeval and instinctive than fear, right?
Thank you. This is important to remember, especially for a poly married to a mono.

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Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
(...Ivy and Vino married for all of the reasons we're all brought up to believe, and insecurity and fear of being alone led them to pledge monogamy to each other, as a security blanket of sorts...)

Yes, we both passed up opportunities with people we were attracted to. In many cases, we actively removed ourselves from situations where our feelings or behaviors were becoming a risk to our relationship.
This sounds very familiar, as it's exactly what I've been doing for a very long time, to the point where I don't have any close friends who are women, and I think that's a damned shame and I'm done with it.

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Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
And, we got over it. It took time and effort--but getting over anything takes time.

Love and desire can be controlled and suppressed, just like jealousy.
I think this is highly individual. For me, suppressing love (or at least a strong crush) HURTS, and in some cases, I have never been able to get over it.

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Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
Vino gets jealous when I suggest being involved with men--intensely so. I've asked him to work through it, he's agreed, and we're taking our time with it (it helps that there aren't any men I'm really attracted to at the moment). But, at the same time, I control my feelings in any situation that would make him jealous--I deliberately remove myself from situations where I feel more than a passing attraction to a man develop, and I never, ever act on feelings toward men, at least for the time being. Quid pro quo, because I love him and don't want to hurt him or lose him.
And again, this sounds familiar, as I've been doing it for the same reasons for over a decade. I can't do it anymore.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
(...emotions can be a conditioned, trained, remembered response rather than letting them happen in the moment...)

Jealousy and fear and inadequacy are not the same things. Jealousy comes out of a mental process. You can teach yourself not to be jealous.
Echoing the question I asked at the start of this thread, "Well then, why don't you just teach yourself not to fall in love with someone else?"

I guess I'm looking for a kind of explanation that a through-and-through hardwired mono would be able to fundamentally grasp, without automatically finding it to be self-serving. I've seen a few (that I've quoted here). I think RP came closest with the notion that it can't all be one-sided: the poly has to work on patience and respecting boundaries (even if it's hard at the beginning), while the mono has to be willing to work on jealousy. The mono, in this case, would need to be convinced of a couple of things:
  • she's not going to be abandoned or replaced, or loved any less
  • being unyielding and losing her partner is actually, in fact, worse than facing her fear of losing her partner
  • her poly partner is actually suffering from holding his feelings in (unrequited love is always painful), did not choose to feel them, and cannot shut them off
  • her poly partner isn't just looking for rationalizations for sleeping around
  • she's not going to be relegated to the role of boring housekeeper

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
[...] you can mentally work yourself up into feeling fear, just like you can with any emotion, but then it's not genuine in the moment of experience, but simply a reaction to your own thoughts. However, jealousy doesn't rise up of itself, it is something that is over top of other feelings. You can have sensations, like nausea and shortness of breath when you're jealous, but those come after you've reacted, not viscerally as the feeling comes up, as sensations do with fear.

Fear pops up and we don't want to feel it (we're afraid of our fears, even), so our mind starts working. And we twist it into jealousy. Jealousy is always a mental construct. There are cultures that do not experience jealousy, or shame, and other mentally induced emotions. But fear and love are natural and when these feelings happen, they just happen of their own accord.
These are all good thoughts, and very helpful. Thanks!
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Old 05-09-2011, 03:37 PM
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Personally, I've always had trouble with jealousy being characterized as a "false" emotion. ?
Jealousy is observed in infants as early as 5 months old. There is nothing false or learned about it. It's clinically proven to be a natural emotion.
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Old 05-09-2011, 04:52 PM
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There's a couple of sayings:

Fake it until you make it and
Act as if

Jealousy can be surpressed, worked around and one can "act as if" everything is ok, until it IS ok.

You cannot be happy, and acting mad. Conversely, you cannot be angry while 'acting' happy.

Try it. Next time you're in a fucking miserable mood, having a seriously pissy day... Jump up, throw your hands in the air and yell "TA DA!!!" do it several times... and see if you're still miserable when giving it your all. You CAN behave in such a way that will change your emotions.

Emotions aren't nouns, they're verbs. Love is an ACTION. Jealousy is an ACTION. They're both real and valid and powerful, but they have to be given fuel - you have to ACT with love and ACT with jealousy for them to perpetuate.

Of course this is all fairly logical and when you're in the grips of a powerful emotion - its *almost* impossible to be logical. But there's always a moment of clarity when you have it in you to make that choice to act one way or another - whether or not you feel it.

So from one viewpoint - its a logical thing:

If I am being asked to act and feel a certain way - then why can't you?
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by marksbabygirl View Post
There's a couple of sayings:

Fake it until you make it and
Act as if

Jealousy can be surpressed, worked around and one can "act as if" everything is ok, until it IS ok.

You cannot be happy, and acting mad. Conversely, you cannot be angry while 'acting' happy.

Try it. Next time you're in a fucking miserable mood, having a seriously pissy day... Jump up, throw your hands in the air and yell "TA DA!!!" do it several times... and see if you're still miserable when giving it your all. You CAN behave in such a way that will change your emotions.

Emotions aren't nouns, they're verbs. Love is an ACTION. Jealousy is an ACTION. They're both real and valid and powerful, but they have to be given fuel - you have to ACT with love and ACT with jealousy for them to perpetuate.

Of course this is all fairly logical and when you're in the grips of a powerful emotion - its *almost* impossible to be logical. But there's always a moment of clarity when you have it in you to make that choice to act one way or another - whether or not you feel it.

So from one viewpoint - its a logical thing:

If I am being asked to act and feel a certain way - then why can't you?
nice post MBG.... I love it. totally agree.
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Old 05-06-2011, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by MorningTwilight View Post
What would you as a poly say to a mono who responds, "Well then, why don't you just tell yourself not to fall in love with anyone else?"

)
This is a great question! Expecting one person to turn off emotions because you see it as negative is not so easily done. The thing is, her jealousy is seen as a negative emotion to you because it impedes what you want. The love you have/could have for another woman is seen as a negative to her because it impedes what she wants.

Jealousy is as clinically recognized and just as natural an emotion as love is. Although it may be even more complicated because it is influenced by so many factors.

How can you respond to this question? I guess you would have to come up with an answer that genuinely convinces the mono person that jealousy is a negative thing for your specific relationship. But that requires them to be able to see how you loving someone else the same way is not a negative to them. I honestly do not believe any verbal answer will convince a truly mono person. I think the only way for them to believe it is to experience this situation. Trial by fire. The downside is…it won't be true for every person. For some people there is no happiness in sharing their partner.

Good luck and hats off for being so open and brave with your communication. That is a gift to both of you.
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